As I’ve mentioned before, throwing characters away under the assumption they’ll never amount to anything is often a mistake. Sometimes it takes a new writer or a new angle to make them work. As I say at the link, the Scarecrow and Shade made the move from D-list to (eventually) A-list because the Silver Age gave them a much more interesting power/skill set than in their Golden Age appearances. With other characters a visual redesign is the key.
I was thinking of this while watching the third and final (sigh) season of Stargirl on the CW this week (it wrapped up in December but it took me a while to catch up). Late in the season, Mike Dugan and Jakeem Thunder are hunting for the first season villain Dragon King when they encounter, instead, a huge, talking white ape. This one:Ultra-Humanite goes on to play a major role in the remaining episodes of the season (and not what I expected). I don’t think that would have happened if he’d still been in his original form, the little old bald guy in a wheelchair. The white ape body — from a Gerry Conway/George Perez Justice League of America three-parter — elevates him from a generic mad scientist to someone eyecatching (just look at Perez’ cover above). And that made the difference. Maybe that old saw about apes on covers selling books still holds true?
Or consider Starro. Although he was the JLA’s foe in their first appearance, he was treated as a joke for the next two decades — seriously, a giant starfish for a villain? When he appeared in the origin of the Zoo Crew (you can see his tentacle over Superman) —
— Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw treated him as comic relief, like what Marv Wolfman did with Dr. Light. Only with an evil alien starfish the funny comes more naturally.
The comic relief take lost out, however to the treatment of Starro in Justice League of America a year earlier. Brian Bolland’s cover design [edited to give proper credit] gives Starro’s mind-control abilities a distinctive twist — when he takes you over, you get a free starfish to cover your face.I’m firmly convinced that creepy faceless look of his human puppets (captured above by Brian Bolland) is why Starro in later years shifted from silly to scary.
Or there’s Marshall Rogers’ wonderful redesign of Deadshot back in the Bronze Age. Steve Englehart wrote the character well, but damn, that costume …
And John Romita’s visual reboot of Black Widow.Do you have a favorite star-making redesign? If so, mention it in comments.